“Perhaps it was some kind of fate or maybe it was just pure luck that I walked into a bar last week and happened to run into a friend who convinced me to stay and watch some bands, but either way I’m so glad the gods of music smiled on me once again and introduced me to the wonderful Breaking Hart Benton.
The name should probably be the first hint that this is music that’s going to be emotional, sometimes fun, sometimes tear inducing but always heartfelt. They call themselves indie/folk but there’s a little more to it than that. Somehow Michael David and Lee James make music with history, it sounds like it could be right at home in a cosy Irish or eastern American pub 100 years ago and yet it’s also right at home in a dark little Brisbane bar in 2012. Just a combination of guitar and banjo, fiddle, vocals and some serious foot stomping, Breaking Hart Benton manage to transport me to places I don’t even know, through stories I’ve never imagined before, about characters I’ve never met but have fallen in love with immediately.
Although I saw a stripped back band on Friday night, it seems things get even better when Michael and Lee are joined by sometimes band members Alice McDowell (who I was lucky enough to see for a couple of songs on Friday night) and Shani Forrester; whose vocals on ‘Everybody’s Lonesome’ are eerily beautiful and create a song that insists on being played over and over. The lyrics on ‘Gilding Lilies’ are exquisite, doing that thing that amazing music does, making the listener question, well, almost life in it’s entirety ; “when you find what you’re looking for, you got it all but you still want more, well I found my treasure in the valley of sin, but I wasn’t satisfied with everything”. ‘Grandfathers Hands’ is a story that sounds like it needs to be told, it’s a tale that could be played for years and years, completely timeless. Their self-titled EP is introspective but not self-indulgent; it’s sometimes heart breaking but hopeful, it’s raw and unpolished yet so well thought and that’s what makes it refreshing all the same.
Breaking Hart Benton make beautiful music that doesn’t need an amp, doesn’t need auto tuning and doesn’t need much except a big heart to sing and a big heart to listen to. This is a band that seems like they need to travel, to share their stories; they need to share their incredible talent for playing live music and making their audience feel a part of those stories.
Sometimes fate does you favours, like it did for me last week. If it happens to take you on a walk to a bar where they are playing or to a website where you can discover more, don’t ignore it. Here’s fate, on this blog, right now, telling you who this fabulous little folk band are. Let it take you to another place far away and lose yourself in the splendour that is Breaking Hart Benton for a little while.”
Jo Michelmore, Its My Kind of Scene
“The world-weary folk music that Breaking Hart Benton espouse on their debut EP is at once fastidiously composed and exquisitely gloomy. A cursory internet search reveals that Hart Benton was a naturalist who rejected technological advancement, and it’s clear to see that this philosophy underpins the band’s organic approach.
Consequently the recording feels a little unpolished, but this just adds to the rustic aesthetic. With a banjo and a fiddle as mainstays, the tunes are atmospherically antiquated and feel like the repertoire of a travelling bard.
They create a pensively atmospheric sound that transports you to a new and contemplative realm. Similarly there is a literary quality to the lyrics on Everybody’s Lonesome that make you realise that this EP isn’t just a casual experiment in songwriting, but an all-encompassing work of art.”
Pete Walsh, Rave Magazine
“A quieter, perhaps more purist, brook of folk. But with an Appalachian plaintive quality that just makes you want to soak it all in.
There are voices in quiet conversation as the fiddle and banjo and such flow and meander through it.
These are people who’ve gone beyond fashion and are making music they seem to genuinely feel. As it happens, this music comes in a period where it has some favour, which is a good thing for purveyors such as these.
I shall now sit quietly and listen to it again and simply enjoy it for its own sake.”
Ross Clelland, Drum Media
“Breaking Hart Benton. Definitely a strange name for a band” I thought while the CD spun up on my audition player. Maybe so but it stands out and so does the potential I heard lurking in the music that emanated from the headphones. This young group from Queensland have a refreshingly old approach to new music.
None of the self-indulgent lyrics that are way too common in unknown songwriters. Common enough themes I guess but it is hard to be totally original now days. The thing is though they’re infused with a feeling of having been through the heydays of folk and truly free thinking popular music.
From the almost random imagery of ‘Everybody’s Lonesome’ to the apparent harmonic references to the ‘Grateful Dead’ that hang about in the background of ‘My Michelle,’ I was intrigued. Oddly enough the 6 track, self-titled EP takes a couple of songs to get to these more up tempo peaks but it’s worth taking the climb and enjoying the descent down the closing tracks. I’m sure my listeners did too.
With banjo and fiddle woven deftly into the arrangements I suspect that once freed from the fetters of the studio this bunch let it rip live; something I look forward to finding out for myself.
Phil Young, Folk On The Fringe, 3MDR Melbourne
Download a PDF version of the BHB Bio below.
Breaking Hart Benton Bio